THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS

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3 Stars - Troubling


When we discovered after WWII that a Nazi SS officer, SS Captain Josef Mengele,

had used twins as lab rats in his diabolical and deadly experiments, the world was appalled. How could this man dehumanize Jewish children in such a calloused and inhuman way?  Yet, little did we know that in the United States fifteen years later, two psychiatrists would work with a Jewish adoption agency to separate twins and triplets at birth in order to place them in different families to study the “nature vs nurture” effects.  This twenty year experiment from the early 1960’s to the early 1980’s seems to have come to an end when three identical triplets found each other.

 

The journey we take in this documentary directed by Tim Wardel begins when they are nineteen and due to a providential coincidence of choosing the same college Robert Shafran and Eddy Galland discover the existence of the other.  Each knowing they were adopted they had no knowledge that they also had an identical brother.  Overjoyed in their discovery, reports of their reunion makes the news. This publicity leads them to the discovery that they are triplets when David Kellman contacts them. At first this discovery enriches and empowers their lives, but what was taken from them could not be returned and the loss of nineteen years of brotherly love becomes evident.

 

We won’t spoil the joy and the sorrow, the discovery and the fallout, the stonewalling and the investigative reporting except to note the moral and social aspects of this true story. Often in the name of science we take the very people we are attempting to help and do them great harm, as did the Jewish adoption agency and psychiatrists Viola Bernard and Peter B. Neubauer. The oath each of them took as physicians was to “First, do no harm.”  And yet they and their associates and the yet undisclosed Washington D.C. funding source, harmed these triplets and the identical children in their experiment.  The evidence is clearly portrayed in the film.

 

We also see the lack of protection over the powerless young women who came to them in their hour of need. Choosing to provide for their children by trusting the adoption agency to find the right home, little did they know that their daughters and sons were being separated at birth and forced to live without their siblings.  This is often the case with those in power.  Whether an SS officer or a trained psychiatrist/researcher, the priceless lives of their prisoners and clients do not matter as much as their own personal motivations and gains.

 

[Spoiler alert] In another way that demonstrates either fear of legal action or an awareness of their shared guilt, the 20 years of data and their conclusions have been sealed and deposited at Yale University to be released decades from now after the participants have all died.  It is difficult to even imagine the arrogance of people who would do such an act as well as those who participate in its ongoing cover-up.  Thankfully, due probably to this film, the triplets have been released redacted information concerning their own lives.

 

When trust is broken with our agencies and physicians then where do we turn in our times of need?  How do we restore such trust when the cover-up and justifications continue?

 

Discussion:

  1. Have you experienced a time when someone you should have been able to trust betrayed you? A parent, a professional, a pastor, a priest?  How did such a betrayal effect you and how have you grown since that time?
  2. Do you trust your psychiatrist/physician?  Have you looked to see if they are being paid by pharmaceutical companies in such websites as Dollars for Docs? Did they prescribe the drug produced by the company that paid them money?

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Posted on August 29, 2018 and filed under 3 STARS, TROUBLING.